In this topic, we address the issues of authorship, inspiration, collaboration with others, and plagiarism.
The questions of the week are:
How have you allowed the input of others to shape your photographic practice?
I am mostly inspired by the artist's story, what prompted him to take up the subject. It can be also their way of life or their attitude. But very often it is the personal story of the photographers behind the pictures that influence me. Separating the images from the story and tying them back together allows me to see the work in a new light and inspires me. An example would be Josef Koudelka’s way of life. He walks tirelessly, sleeps under bridges and, even though he is 80 years old, he photographs at least three film cassettes a day to keep practicing viewing things with the eyes of a photographer.
What is your attitude towards drawing from the ideas of other people, or their work?
Without inspiration and, to a certain extent, imitation, we wouldn't get advance. From infancy, we are programmed to progress by imitating and learning from others.
Browsing through books and exhibitions is often a source of inspiration. That doesn't mean that you go home and try to reproduce what you've seen. Maybe to improve technically, but then please put those pictures in a box and put them away. Don't present them as your own artwork.
If you look at art in general, it triggers something in us and, above all, something completely different in each of us. We are complex beings, able to see more in the picture than what meets the eye, which we should try to use and pursue.
Art created by others portrayed in public space and then captured by one’s camera can become one’s own artwork, as it changed based on the environment, the elements, and time, and its effect on the piece of art. The appropriation and identical redoing of other people's art as one’s own concept is obsolete I’m afraid.
How do you discern between ‘collaboration’, ‘appropriation’ and ‘plagiarism’?
For me, inspiration and plagiarism are like light and shadow, with an often fluid line between the two.
We see, hear, process, and store. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we imitate. We form our own ideas from impressions. What has not yet been seen, not thought of, and not said; which mountain has not yet been depicted from every angle?
If you discover an imitation, it does not mean that the artist is aware of it. And sometimes the journey of following the hints of possible imitations is even exciting, especially when they help us progress.
“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.“
" 'The quote in this form was a favorite of Steve Jobs but he was probably (mis)quoting Pablo Picasso who said ‘Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal’ – who in turn might be rephrasing Igor Stravinsky, but both sayings may well originate in T. S. Eliot’s dictum: ‘Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.’ – The origins of this quote itself is an example of great artists stealing.’”
(UVU School of the Arts, 2018)
Being a 'Great Artist', one who “steals” means being well known and practically regarded by one’s audience as something particularly valuable. Then he can call it his own? Can he sign it with his name and does his signature make the work of art his? Can it be sold as such? Which artists have been given permission to portray their art as an original if it is technically plagiarism, “stolen”. I think, with impunity, only those who are authorised to do so by us, the public. But here, too, there is great complexity and the story of the artist and his goal can make the plagiarism his own art. See Richard Prince.